The Growing Challenges in Recruiting/Retaining Staff to Deliver Quality CX

Jun 21, 2016

Every employee provides and/or supports their companies’ efforts to deliver a superior Customer Experience (CX). For without customers there are no sales, employers, and jobs.  This goes, naturally enough, for customer-facing front-line staff. But it also equally applies to behind the scenes personnel.  

How successful employees are in accomplishing their tasks determines whether customers buy (and keep buying) their companies’ offerings.  By the same token, how successful companies are at attracting and retaining excellent employees will determine their ability to provide a profitable CX.

But as reported in a new Frost & Sullivan Market Insight, “Maximizing the Human Resource”, a one-two combination of business and economic growth and shrinking workforces have led to increased competition for quality workers. As a result wages, benefits, training costs, and productivity losses (as replacements are brought up to speed) threaten to escalate over the coming months and years.

Unfortunately too many employers have worsened their workforce (and CX) challenges by treating their staff poorly. Examples include unsafe working conditions, suddenly cancelling shifts, not paying them while on-call, hiring and retaining bad supervisors and other toxic employees, and as noted in this New York Times story, clawing back sales commissions on product returns.  This last one is particularly egregious in that employees suffer from generous--and abused--CX policies.

The traditional safety values to rising labor market pressures are failing to operate. There are limits to automation and offshoring.  Customers want higher-touch personalized service that best occurs with employees who can relate to them and who understand and meet their needs.  Immigration has become a U.S. election issue from citizens who lost and feel their jobs are vulnerable to this competition. Meanwhile reverse immigration is occurring as workers take advantage of expanding opportunities in their home countries.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and healthcare employers are not immune to labor market pressures. They can no longer count on the higher pay and career opportunities to lure workers.  High education costs, crushing student loan debts, the income divide, and public school underinvestment risk shrinking applicant pools.  Job candidates face atrociously expensive housing and the long, pricey, and high-stress commutes in the communities where many of these positions are located.  Little wonder that many of them choose lesser jobs closer to home: often literally, like with their parents.

Meanwhile the new generations of employees are now recruiting and screening employers.  They are insisting on more control of their careers, performance, and schedules. They desire urban over suburban environments, value employee collaboration and engagement, and work-life balance, and prefer companies with cultures, values, and purpose that align with theirs.  They also expect continual feedback from peers, supervisors, and customers to self-manage their performance. 

Savvy employers understand the CX/employee dynamic. They are fine-tuning their HR/HCM processes: recruitment, screening, training, and management in order to find and keep the right people that best fit their organizations. They are increasing wages and also benefits such as education and training assistance. They have employee-and-family-friendly policies including steadier hours and caretaker and parental leave. These employers allow, and in fact encourage remote work, which also cuts costs and enables business continuity, while expanding their labor pools beyond the commuting distance to their premises.  Employers who “get it” are also locating their premises on frequent-service bus and rail transit routes. They also are seeking applicants who have military service and first responder experience, and support them when duty calls.

Moreover, smart companies are empowering the workers with new technologies that enable them to improve their performance while making their work more interesting. Case in point is the highly competitive (and tumultuous) retail sector. As noted in another new Frost & Sullivan Market Insight, “Ensuring an Excellent Omnichannel Retail Experience” retailers are equipping their sales associates with clienteling software, mobile POS, tablets, and augmented reality glasses to improve the convenience and quality of their interactions with customers.

The bottom line is this: if companies want to grow through offering an excellent CX they must have the employees who can grow with them.  That means investing in (and respecting) their people, and in the processes and technologies to support them.

Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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